My Journey Into Magical Realism By Juan Ramirez, Jr.

Juan Ramirez headshotI have been a dramatist for roughly – and I use that word meaning both time and manner –about ten years. I was always creating stories since I could learn to write. If you asked, many would argue that I was able to bring readers into new worlds or that I thought of some crazy stuff. Although to be honest, the biggest thing I lacked was imagination.

As a kid.pngI would always write my stories based on the realities of life and could never really develop, what I thought, was an original universe. As I got older, I wrote more stories based in our world and when I would be introduced to other’s imaginative narratives, their talent floored me. It was not until some time later that I took the shot at creating my own ground rules for a particular world. After trying, I realized that I was no good at it. Every story I came up with either made no sense or lacked depth. That’s when I realized that I was approaching this style of writing in the wrong way.

I decided to dig deeper into my ideas that I had originally set either in a realistic or naturalistic way and then ask myself, “How could I make this story more imaginative?” Specifically, I used the word ‘imaginative’ to simply mean to create a world different from ours. I came to realize five things.

  1. Like acting, it is better to start big than subtle.

Big_Subtle.pngSince I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, it was showing in my pages. I was too worried about clarity and although it is important, I did not allow myself the permission to go wild. As long as you understand the purpose of what you’re writing, you could always sort out clarity with viewers and readers later.

  1. Revisit your inspiration and be willing to change it.

Revisit.pngI would consistently return to why I was writing my play and also be called back to the moment of inspiration. At the time of origin, my concept was an entirely different play. I would wonder if I went in the right direction or if I lost the main purpose as to why I was writing the thing in the first place. It was not until I kept a focus on how to make changes did my play move forward.

  1. You must figure out your ground rules, even if it won’t be explained in the play.

Rules.pngEvery piece of writing has something to say. Even if the whole purpose of a particular piece of writing is that there is nothing to say, I argue that to be the purpose. No matter how chaotic, mysterious or unfamiliar your world may be, make sure you know why you mentioned anything to begin with. There are plenty of dramatic works that leave out information on curious moments that seem to be there to only annoy us. So remember, there is a difference between a moment being mysterious and a moment having no dramatic purpose for the sake of being vague. I needed to understand the unknowns of my play and how they would affect an audience. If not, how was I going to know if my play was working and more importantly, inspiring an audience?

  1. Write your magic as though it is ordinary and your ordinary as though it is magic.

Magical.pngTo much of my benefit – although friends think I’m crazy – I have no qualms about pushing my protagonists through too much conflict. Maybe I’m sadistic. Watching our favorite protagonists fight through the difficult struggles will always be the most interesting part of a story. Sure, transforming creatures, dangerous advanced technologies, otherworldly beings, mental mind games, mysterious confined areas and magic scenarios are the sauce to magical realistic works. However, the meat is the character fighting that relatable struggle. I like using food as a metaphor.

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About IATI Theater

Bilingual Latinx Theatre Company that provokes introspection through cutting-edge performing arts. We support multicultural, diverse and underserved communities while harnessing and empowering unique voices.
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